The land of the rising sun comprises eight regions, each with its own distinct craft traditions that have emerged over Japan’s long history. From exquisite pottery to basic household items, Japan’s unique crafts embody both tradition and a promising future.

Japan is renowned for the caliber of its wood, bamboo, and metal handicrafts. The poetic steel of Japanese blades, as well as its cast-iron vessels, are highly admired by others. The country’s ceramics are also revered for their transcendent simplicity on the one hand and their intricacy on the other. And perhaps, Japan’s elaborate paper crafts are the most well-known among others: the ubiquitous washi paper lanterns popularized by Western mid-century moderns, origami (paper folding), kirigami (paper cutting), and wagasa (oil-paper parasols). Despite their historical roots, Japanese crafts are continually developing. Because craft knowledge is so fragile, the country has established a system of officially recognized master craftspeople and named some of the top people working in each category as “living national treasures” to inspire appreciation for—and the continuation of—work in these domains.

Kengo Kuma, a Japanese architect, believes that the power of Japan’s crafts originates from their gentleness and natural calm. Even the swords and knives have an unusual serenity about them, which is indicative of the amount of work and care that has gone into them. For Kuma, crafts from Japan are a kind of philosophical gift to humanity.